Watch out for secret shopper scams, Germantown couple warns - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Watch out for secret shopper scams, Germantown couple warns

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

GERMANTOWN, TN (WMC-TV) - A Germantown couple, who asked not to be identified, recently became the victim of a mystery shopper scam after responding to an email.

"And in the subject line it read 'Mystery Shopper Needed,'" one of the victims said.

Scammers asked the couple to go to legitimate stores and document customer service for $150 dollars each.  The thieves sent an $870 money order in the mail for each shopping trip.
 
"We were to cash that money order and then retain $150 for our services," one of the victims said.
 
So they did what they were told.
     
"I wired the rest of the money through Western Union to an individual in Ohio once, and Michigan the second time," one of the victims said.

But $4,000 later, he wondered why the amount on the money order exceeded their agreed payment, and called the company that issued the money order.

"These money orders had been used earlier in November, about three weeks earlier," the victim said.
 
The couple said they thought the bank would detect if the check was fake, but Rick Harlow, a Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Secret Service, says that's not a bank's responsibility.

"You're responsible for every check you deposit," Harlow said. "By federal law the bank has to make those funds available to you, even though the check may not have gone through all the clearances."

But, Harlow said, you can defend yourself from these scammers.

"If you receive a check and they tell you to deposit it, first of all, don't.  Secondly, if you do, wait at least a month - maybe two months - before you touch that money," he said.

If the Germantown couple victimized by scammers had only knew that, they'd be $4,000 richer this Christmas.

"Kind of puts a damper on Christmas," they said.

According to Harlow, 99 times out of 100, a check in the mail in cases like this is counterfeit, and the scammers often evade the law by living outside of the United States.

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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